There is excitement for a child when they head into doing or learning something they are passionate about, and perhaps more wanting to emulate. I believe strongly that a lot of children want to be like… you fill in the blank with the name of a hockey player they have watched.
Maybe it is their father, or uncle or simply a player on their favorite NHL team that they watch week after week.
They make the commitment to spending time practicing and going to the rink only to them sometimes find that they are left out, not included the same as other children in the team.
That could be where they aren’t included for specific skills practice or benched and benched and benched rather than getting ice time. It could simply be like one Mom recently wrote where her son was not given a team jersey. He was the only child not given one.
This is what I mean by being left out.
And what does this do for your child’s confidence levels? Their sense of being okay, being good enough.
Not a lot.
And that ‘not a lot’ is inclusive of a couple of things. Firstly, the not a lot happens when their own mind chatter starts to tell them what not being included means. Their head will tell them stories such as “I’m not good enough” or “They don’t like me”, for example.
The second thing that occurs is that they then keep themselves on the outer. That is in part because of the mind chatter, and the strength of that.
Here is how you can help your child?
Help them understand it is not personal.
One of the hardest things for your child to comprehend, yet the thing that will make the biggest difference for them, is to help them understand that being left out has nothing to do with them.
Sure, you’re going to say. And you may even disagree with me on that, yet my experience backs it up.
The thing is with all of this is that the Coach, who is most likely the person “leaving your child out” may have a raft of other things going on. Take for example a very loud, very influential parent putting pressure on the Coach to include their child, regardless of their talent.
With the Coach not strong enough to stand up to that parent and tell them that all the children on the team deserve to participate, the situation won’t change. And yet, has that anything to do with YOUR child? No, it doesn’t. It is all about the Coach and their inability to act.
Now do you see what I mean when I say “the situation has nothing to do specifically with your child.”
Support their willingness to try.
How can you help your child feel good about themselves regardless of if they feel included or not?
This is about praise. Praise them for showing up to practice, regardless. Praise them for their efforts in practicing off the ice. Praise them for sitting on the bench and not complaining. Praise them any way you can.
By doing this you will help them reconsider their own sense of value. They might begin to see that their worthiness doesn’t depend on whether they are included or not.
Help then to learn something by watching.
Yes, your child wants to be included, but what could they learn from sitting or being on the outside of everything? If you were to give them the challenge of picking up on one thing the other players did, or one thing the coach said, that they could bring into their own game, how might that change their perception of ‘being on the outside’?
The whole thing with being “left out” is that you can either view it as the worst thing that has happened, or as a wonderful experience. It will depend on how your child views it, with your help, as to how much it impacts them and their hockey future.
Consider the value of helping your child seeing it as a positive thing and a challenge to be worked through. The emotional and mental impact of this is far less than seeing it as a personal affront that decreases their sense of who they are as a person.
Having trouble with the mental side of the game of hockey? Karen Cherrett, Mental Skills Coach can help with that. She coaches players to understand how their thoughts impact their game; Parents how to support their child's mental wellness; and Coaches to understand mental skills management for their players.